One thousand nine hundred and ninety nine. This is not the result of a new fantasy formula devised to help you pick your team this week: it is the distance between Cabinda, Angola and Cape Town. I don't often depart from fantasy talk on here but I feel that the recent attacks in Angola need further comment.
The events in the troubled Cabinda region are tragic and of course raise issues about the current African Cup of Nations tournament, particularly why the Togolese team were traveling by bus through the disputed territory. However, the parallels drawn between this event and the World Cup in South Afrcia are at best mis-guided and at worst, ignorant.
"Once again, the world of sport has been dragged into the news spotlight with tragic consequences. And, with the World Cup looming on the horizon, it could not have come at a worse time for the continent of Africa" (ESPN)
""I am appalled. This throws a question mark against next summer's World Cup. You simply cannot put the safety of players, officials and fans at the slightest risk. That is totally unacceptable" (Phil Brown in The Sun)
I fail to see how these events affect South Africa anymore than a crisis in Bosnia would affect the London Olympics. Bosnia is within 1,000 miles of London but I'm sure no-one would assume that all European countries have the same issues. So why do we refer to Africa as if it's issues can be applied across all it's countries? With over 1 billion people, 53 countries, over 2,000 languages and 5 time zones Africa is probably the most diverse continent on earth and cannot be easily summarised by scholars such as Phil Brown.
The attacks have been reported by focusing on just two issues: (1) the security of the British based players and (2) the affect on the World Cup in South Africa. I think we would all do well to remember that the bus driver was killed and that while mistakes have clearly been made, we cannot simply dismiss the incident as an 'African problem'. Recalling the British players is all well and good but that is a typical response by the Western powers to an African issue - retreat. The people of Angola do not have such a luxury and perhaps we should address the issue rather than just protecting those lucky enough to brought into our consciousness.
I hope that the tournament can go ahead without further issues and that the critics of African football will be silenced. It seems that playing in the troubled Chabinda region may have been a mistake, but not one that should condemn an entire continent.